CITY BREATHS

Posts tagged amsterdam

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Amsterdam’s Morphology, A History

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Amsterdam, today.

All cities have a unique story to tell about their spatial history. So does Amsterdam. The layout of the inner city canal ring was even inscribed on the World Heritage List by Unesco in 2010. Lately, I have been doing some research into the Dutch world heritage sites - most of the sites have to do with land design, water engineering and planning - which inspired me to look at Amsterdam’s old and new urban patterns with fresh eyes. Here is a little visual history of the city’s planning.

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Amsterdam, 1538 (looking from north to south).

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The pre-1600 inner city today.

Above is one of the oldest known painted or mapped cityscapes of Amsterdam, by Cornelisz Antonisz from 1538. The map is basically upside down, with Amsterdam (that evolved from a late 12th century fishing settlement) looked at from the North. The dam in the centre is now Dam Square. The city is walled (on the left side at Zeedijk and on the right at Singel). The pattern of the old city is still intact, with some of the waterways now paved.

The first big extension plan was formed in the first decade of the 17th century. Because the city was literally full after the Golden Age started, it was decided to build a canal ring around the old city and move the defence wall outward (over 1km eastwards and almost 1km to the west). The canal ring was built in two phases, one starting in 1610 and one starting in 1660.

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A 1657 map showing the large canal ring extension (south side up).

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The canal ring today (take a look at how green it actually is).

The first extension of the canal ring (from Brouwersgracht in the west to Leidsegracht) was a huge relief to the city, releasing the pressure on its land. It was filled up quickly with some of the richest Europeans migrating to one of the classy canals. The second extension (completing the concentric half to the east) was finished by the time the city’s immense prosperity had already started to decrease. It took almost two centuries (until around 1900) before all plots laid out were built on. De Jordaan was also part of the first canal ring extension. It was a planned segregation, with the three canals built for the rich (especially Heren- and Keizersgracht), and the Jordaan area built for the poorer workers and industries.

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De Jordaan today (it is located on the very right of the 1658 map above).

The city’s economy only really started growing again in the second half of the 19th century. That is when plans for expansion were made again. The first residential bit outside of the canal 17th century extension was built in 1870 (as part of an 1866 plan than never was executed except for this part, because it turned out to be too expensive). This was the northern part of the current De Pijp area. The city expanded concentrically in these years after, according to the 1876 Plan-Kalff.

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First 19th century expansion of De Pijp

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The 1876 Plan-Kalff

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Staatsliedenbuurt, part of the 1876 Plan-Kalff.

The next large expansions were undertaken between 1920 and 1940, consisting of Plan Zuid (South), designed by Berlage, and Plan West. These developments included a lot of Amsterdam School architecture.

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Plan Zuid.

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Plan Zuid today.

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Plan West with the respective architects of the building blocks.

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Plan West today.

After WWII, several big urban plans have been realized. Much of it, realized between 1951 and 1966 was the execution of the General Extension Plan of 1935. Most of these developments are based on early modernist ideals. 

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General Extension Plan.

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The functionalist Slotermeer, a result of the General Extension Plan.

The Bijlmermeer was built just before 1970 and is considered one of the most radical post-war plans in The Netherlands. Part of it has already been demolished because it turned out to be not as utopian as planned.

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Bijlmermeer plan.

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Bijlmermeer today.

Lately, Amsterdam turned to the water, with the KNSM-Island (1990s), Java-Island and IJburg (both 2000s) being the largest expansions. Currently, the second part of IJburg is being built. In the near future, Amsterdam wants to house the increasing population mostly by densifying the existing city.

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Java- and KNSM-Islands.

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IJburg (a few years ago, GMaps seems to be behind some five years).

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Amsterdam, 2040

Filed under Amsterdam Berlage architecture canals history planning modernism city urbanism

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Livable Cities #pinyourcity Winners

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Soweto, from the winning Pinyourcity board (source: iseeadifferentyou)

The winners of the #pinyourcity contest, hosted by Philips Livable Cities, have been announced. Earlier this week, I helped judging the boards in London. The way Pinterest was used as a tool for mapping livability impressions is innovative, both by the organizers (Pinterest is usually only about lifestyle & consumption) as by the people who created the boards.
The contestants were encouraged to show why the city of their choice was the most livable (and lovable) and to tell this story through a set of images on Pinterest. 


A video impression of the judging

We (other judges included people from The Pop-Up CityPolisCITIESUrban TimesFast CompanyMonocleSmartPlanetIt’s Nice That and The Mobile City) picked 10 winners and runners up from 25 shortlisted boards.

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Jammin’ in Johannesburg, the overall winning board

The big winner was Jammin’ in Johannesburg, a board by Stephanie Kramer. It was definitely my favourite, especially because it represented different kinds of livability. I believe that livability is a plural thing: everybody has their own indicators of livability: for some it’s mostly about nice bars and theatres or bicycle lanes, for others it’s primarily about being able to make a living or crime-free neighbourhoods. Therefore it is difficult to point out exactly what livability is, but the winning board shows this diversity very well: from arts, education and great food to festivals, beautiful cityscapes and improved safety.

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The 10xAmsterdam board, a good runner up

Another favourite of mine was the 10xAmsterdam board by Christina Franken, because she goes beyond the iconic and picturesque city, and because there are some personal connections. I like the fact that she mentions Amsterdam’s fertile startup culture, something I researched (in Dutch). Moreover, she also recognizes the city’s canals as extra public space, something I pointed out earlier this year. She didn’t win, but I thought she deserved an honorable mention.

Read all about the #pinyourcity contest.

Filed under social media livability johannesburg amsterdam

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Amsterdam’s New Metro Line and the Project’s PR Strategy

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The tunnel, seen from station Vijzelgracht

Today, the last 7,5 meters of Amsterdam’s new subway line, the Noord/Zuidlijn, have been drilled after 32 months of digging. The new line is nowhere near finished, however, being planned to open in 2017. Nevertheless, it is a milestone at a time public opinion seems to change for the better, after a difficult decade.

Headaches
The fact that the drilling is finished is quite a relief for the city. It has been a huge and hugely problematic project for over a decade. The plan was approved by the city council in 1996, at a budget of 1,5 billion euro’s and scheduled to be finished in 2005. That didn’t work. There were a lot of protests, some dystopian reports were published, a referendum followed and the plans were changed. Construction started in 2003. In 2008, several historic buildings along Vijzelgracht subsided and were damaged because of the construction works. The estimated total costs now are at 3,1 billion, and the line will open 12 years later that planned initially planned.

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Rokin station

How PR changed perceptions
After thisextremely difficult start, Amsterdammers, and people all over The Netherlands were sceptical. Noord/Zuidlijn was a running joke for quite some years. There was hardly anyone to be found who was positive about the project. This has changed over the past years. Not that people are hailing the project as the best thing that could happen to Amsterdam, but here is less cynicism and sarcasm. I dare to say that Amsterdammers are slowly starting to feel some pride and are looking forward to start using the new metro line, especially because it connects the upcoming Noord district (according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal) to the rest of the city.

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Tunnel boring machine “Molly” at Vijzelgracht station

The way of communication seems to have contributed to the change in opinion. In 2009, the PR team of the project took on a new approach: tell the entire story, make sure people are up-to-date about the progress of Noord/Zuidlijn. An information centre was opened at Central Station and a social media campaign started, with the protagonists being the construction workers, explaining in detail what they were doing. The complexity was demonstrated and every milestone (a new station reached by the tunnel boring machine, a new tunnel lowered into the IJ river) was publicly celebrated. There’s a website where you could live follow the location of the drilling, with accompanying explanations by the workers on site. Every new station and it’s project leader got a Facebook page and YouTube, Flickr and Twitter were used to make the project as transparent as possible.

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The Facebook page of Rokin station and project leader Ries

Underground sci-fi
My favorite element of the campaign was the viewpoint that was created at Rokin station, where you can get it during the day and watch the construction works in the station, a 26,5-metres deep and hundreds of metres long space full with workers and machinery, beautifully lit and very ‘underground’. Very sci-fi, very smart PR.
The viewpoint is open Tuesday to Sunday, 13:00h to 18:00h. If you happen to be in Amsterdam anytime soon, this has to be on your top five visits list. It is right at Spui stop on Rokin, look out for the big red ‘M’ on the sidewalk. That is where you go down. It is free of charge.

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Rokin station, where you can go and have a look

It is interesting to see public opinion is slowly changing, after a changing attitude of the city’s Noord/Zuidlijn project towards media and citizens. If the construction will continue without any major problems, the story might just get an unexpected happy end.

All pictures are from the Noord/Zuidlijn Flickr page.

Related Post:
Amsterdam is Smartening Up

Filed under Amsterdam infrastructure underground PR branding urbanism

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Post-Apocalyptic Amsterdam

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If you happen to be in Amsterdam today or tomorrow, you should definitely check out Kunstvlaai 2012, a Festival of Independents, and a “platform for over 70 local and international artist-led initiatives, art schools and nomadic organizations of the contemporary visual arts”.

A lot of interesting, experimental and spot-on installations and artworks are shown. One of them is this project by the New Sculpture Department, featuring a post-apocalyptic Amsterdam. Different iconic buildings (such as Central Station and Scheepvaartmuseum) are portrayed in a decayed condition and in a desolate landscape. Next to that, excavated projects from the future’s past (such as razor blades and a cheese slicer) are exhibited in a fossil condition. All in a gloomy room. 

It makes you aware of the fact that in a couple of thousand years, our cities as we know it won’t be here anymore. Quite a neutralizing thought.

Filed under apocalypse Amsterdam art urbanism

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City Centre Parking Discouragement


Rozengracht, Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, the city centre can be quite congested sometimes. Sophisticated methods directed at parking pursuits are being used to keep car users away.

Filed under parking Amsterdam infrastructure

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Amsterdam is Smartening Up

How yet another sustainable and intelligent concept is adding to Amsterdam’s smart and innovative character.


Car2Go Amsterdam. ©Car2Go

Today, I registered for Car2Go, which is an incredibly smart car use program that started off in Amsterdam about six months ago. Amsterdam is the fifth city worldwide and the first in Europe to have a Car2Go program. It is now expanding to another 8 cities worldwide.

It is actually a corporate initiative. Daimler, the German automobile multinational that initiated the project, deployed 300 electric-powered Smart cars. The cars are easy to park, because they have parking permits for all inner-ringroad districts, and of course because of their compact size.

To register, you need to pay €9,99. There’s an app and a website to find the cars that are parked nearby. You can even reserve one, up to 15 minutes before driving off. After getting into one of the cars you pay per minute, 29 cents to be exact (9 cents whilst parking). Because of the parking permits, you can drop them of wherever you like within the ringroad (and some districts further away). When you park them at a charging point, you get free kilometers for your next drive (the navigation panel in the car shows where the nearest charging point is).

This is really what urban car use should look like, I believe. Not only is the sustainable side of it something that makes me feel happy. The flexibility of it is great and the costs are relatively low. The cars are easy to find and to use, and it seems to me that the concept is in line with all kinds of societal and economic developments that are going on.

The ideal of car ownership in cities seems to be fading, which of course is a good thing for jsut about anyone who is is not a SUV manufacturer. It actually only makes sense, because why would every urban househould need their own car? I think that’s more and more something of the past. And yes, there have been car-sharing initiatives before that are comparable to Car2Go, but not in such a sustainable, efficient and affordable way.


Landing page of the Amsterdam Smart City website.

Amsterdam Smart City
Daimler specificly chose Amsterdam to be the first European city to deploy the concept. This is partially because of the existence of ‘Amsterdam Electric’ (a Daimler representative states in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant today), which is a network of public charging points. The number of charging points will be around 1000 by the end of 2012, which is quite a lot for a city the size of Amsterdam. The existing ‘electric infrastrucure’ made Daimler choose Amsterdam as the first European city to have Car2Go.

These municipal investments are what made the program work. But it’s also the physical fabric of the city that I think is a good match with Car2Go. The small cars are perfect for the fine grained streets in the central districts, and the small parking spaces. Also, Amsterdam is not as congested as other cities, making inner city car rides doable and not extremely time-consuming. Also, more and more people living and working in Amsterdam most of the time don’t need a car, but for the moments they do, Car2Go offers the right flexibility.

Amsterdam has been hailed for their ‘smart city’ initiatives - both in media and academia - particularly because of the numerous small scale initiatives that use new technologies in a coordinated way that are almost seamlessly integrated with the city’s existing social, economic, infrastructure networks and cultural and historical layers. 
This is something Saskia Sassen addressed at the PICNIC conference, last September, saying that we shouldn’t want to create ‘smart cities’ from scratch because the technologies are not ‘sufficiently urbanized’ yet. Rather, we should organically deploy technology to enhance our existing urban environments. 

I’m excited to see where Amsterdam is going in this smart (or wise, or sustainable, or organically technological) development, looking at the work Amsterdam Innovation Motor and Amsterdam Smart City are currently doing, from large developments to almost surgical interventions. 

Previously on City Breaths:
Should we not reconsider the term “Smart Cities”? 
Smart Cities Should be Open-Source
Employ Technology to Create Ownership, Rather than Smart Cities
 

Filed under smartercities smart cities Amsterdam technology networks urbanism

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Food Logistics and Food Logic in Amsterdam

CITIES did a great video on Amsterdam’s food transportation system, in collaboration with Rabobank and ZTRDG. It researched the opportunities to supply local hotels, restaurants and shops with the food produced in Amsterdam’s surroundings. CITIES proposes bringing together all the separate transportation flows into a shared and sustainable urban food infrastructure. Make sure to check it out! It has English subtitles and wonderful graphics!

This research is part of CITIES’ overarching project Farming The City

Filed under food system urban farming CITIES Amsterdam transportation

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Failed Architecture #7 | Ruin Porn: The Beauty of Failure

Andrew Moore, Ballroom of the Lee Plaza Hotel in DetroitBallroom, Lee Plaza Hotel, Detroit. By Andrew Moore ©Reflex Art Gallery

Talks and Q&A | Wednesday May 9 | 20:00h | English | 5 euro

In previous editions of Failed Architecture, we have primarily looked at the why, how and when of failed architecture, trying to get a grasp of the various dimensions of failure and to understand according to whom certain buildings or built environments are malfunctioning. This time, we will try to figure out why many people like to see and talk about failed architecture and whether this influences the future of failed buildings.

Aestheticization of modern ruins is popular: we love romantic, wistful pictures with perfect compositions and dramatic light, beautifying decay and mortality. Over the past years, the number of so-called urban explorers has grown, visiting or breaking into derelict buildings. Just take a look at the infinite number of pictures of abandoned buildings, ruined factories and rundown train stations on Flickr and other websites and blogs. These ruinous structures seem to be much more to us than just piles of rubble. Detroit is the primary example. The extreme case of decay, deindustrialization and poverty after a prosperous century has become the mainstream case of failure fixation and a popular subject in picture, writing and film. Where does this fascination come from? Why are we so preoccupied with failure in photography, urban analysis, literature and other media? And does this obsession help or obstruct attempts to restore urban ruins and learn from past failures? These and other questions will be answered.

Rob Funcken, Psychiatric Hospital in BloemendaalPsychiatric Hospital Bloemendaal. By Rob Funcken.

We have invited several guests to discuss the beauty of failure with us:

Hans Aarsman is a photography journalist, photographer and writer. Aarsman will analyze forms of failure photography in order for us to understand the underlying motives of the photographer and the collective love for beautiful decay. 

Rob Funcken is a Brussels-based photographer, graphic designer and former urban explorer. He has been invited to talk about the act and glamour of urban exploring, and why so many people are intrigued by the act of urban exploring and the photography connected to it. 

Kim Bouvy is an artist working with photography and text, exploring the ways our urban environment is perceived and valued and how that again is being reflected in visual culture and architecture and urbanism. 

A fourth speaker is yet to be announced.

Location: De Verdieping / TrouwAmsterdam | Wibautstraat 127 | Facebook

(Source: failedarchitecture)

Filed under failed architecture architecture Detroit Amsterdam ruin porn decay industrial photography

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How Coffee Revitalizes the City

Coffee culture expresses new ways of working and living 
and shapes our cities

Coffee Bru Specialty Coffee Bar
Coffee Bru, Amsterdam.

Coffee helps us. It helps us get out of bed, it raises our productivity and promotes creativity, it’s the driving force of conversations and the fuel for writers and bloggers. This piece is also written in a coffee bar, my personal favorite. It’s called Coffee Bru and was recently named the best coffee venue in The Netherlands and Belgium in a newly published coffee guide. Coffee Bru is located outside of Amsterdam’s centre in a neighbourhood in transition. In a typical week, I spend about three days working in this place. Sitting here consuming coffee just helps me through the day and through my work, or at least gives me the illusion that my productivity benefits from the consumption experience.

Energy impulse for the city
But coffee is not just providing myself and other people with energy. It also ‘helps’ the city. Since coffee culture has grown so rapidly over the past years, coffee has become a catalyst for urban development as well. And this is not just a revival of the ‘coffee houses’ that first emerged in Europe in the early 1600s. It is more of a phenomenon in which several developments in the society and the economy meet, while having a strong connection to spatial dynamics.

Coffee places: physical articulations of our economies and societies
This mechanism has to do with the processes of postindustrialisation and several economic and societal developments that are associated with it. One of them is that in more flexible economies, the boundaries between social and professional life are fading. Business meetings are sometimes hard to distinguish from just hanging out or catching up, especially for smaller and more flexible businesses (eg. freelancers).
The fusion of professional and personal lives are related to the fact that businesses and individual professionals are becoming more and more footloose (at least within their city) and that this makes so called third places (places other than the house or the office, such as coffee bars and libraries) easier to use for work purposes.
Next to this, we are more and more concerned with aesthetic reflexivity and the sign value of things, rather than use value. Coffee (consumption) is a product/service that is increasingly subject to this. We are willing to pay more for fancy-named, exotically flavored or artisanally brewed coffee, because we like the product, but also because we like to relate ourselves - our identity - to the product or the experience (yes, you too). Several years ago, the hip thing to consume was coffee with flavours and creams, preferrably in huge take away cups. Over the past years, the hip has shifted towards more artisan coffees, strict brewing rituals and freshly baked cookies and cakes in small-scale and cozy cofee bars with vintage and ingenious interiors.

A variety of coffee brewing methods
A variety of brewing methods is the new wave. ©Mabel Suen

The spatial dispersion of coffee venues
In the meantime, the Starbucks-esque coffee venues have become more mainstream, generating large visitor flows and revenues. They are typically situated in the city centres or on the main streets of gentrified neighbourhoods.

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Barista Jam is located amidst traditional shops in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The new type of coffee bars are generally situated in other places. One the one hand, because they cannot afford the high-end locations as they are often startups run by young people, but on the other hand because their crowds are also in other places. The main audience of the new coffee venues generally consists of people from twenty to fourty, with a dash of hip (or hipster). Looking around in these places, you see many students and young professionals/freelancers working, reading and socializing. (What’s also remarkable, is the amount of young mothers with babies hanging out.)

Artisan Roast coffee bar, Edinburgh
Artisan Roast, Edinburgh.

Whatever the exact composition of the audience may be, it seems that much of the visitors also like living in neighbourhoods in transition and/or cannot afford to live in ‘better’ neighbourhoods. As is the case for the venues. The (slightly) off-centre location provides a suitable space to lower rents, and somewhat edgy character with which they like to identify themselves. 

And that is what many young urban dwellers like: the ‘undiscovered’, slightly hidden and rough character of the venues combined with innovative products, services and interiors. An initial result is often a flocking of young people, partly because there is a high demand for good meeting places, which has to do with the above mentioned shifts in society and economic structures.

Local buzz and gentrification
Popular meeting places, in turn, create a certain vibrance for their environment. This can help the neighbourhood develop, increase liveability (whatever that may be exactly) and attract more people and businesses to the area: a next phase of gentrification. It is evident that there is a correlation between commercial and residential gentrification. Commercial gentrification attracts more activity, making an area more attractive for more affluent residents. Residential gentrification on the other hand, generates a demand for more upscale commercial activities.

There is a lot to say about gentrification. A mild version of it is generally perceived as something good, but just as there is a momentum for these avant-garde venues to set up shop in not-so-hip areas, there is a certain tipping point in the gentrification process. This often entails (a.o.) rising rents, a declining share of social housing (at least in the Netherlands), at some point disappearing facilities and amenities for the less well-off, and in the more profound cases chain stores entering, standardization and a looking-alike of neighbourhoods.

We’re all gentrifiers
But let’s not go on and on about gentrification, that’s a whole ‘nother (very important) discussion. What is striking to me is that coffee bars are physical expressions of changes in taste and the ways we live and work. The popularity of these venues, in turn, can work as a catalyst for certain areas, because it creates a particular local energy, attracting more activity to these neighbourhoods. This is how I observe it. And while I happily fuse my work with the enjoyable activity of consuming coffee and being part of the coffee culture, I’m aware of the fact that this makes me a small cog in processes of gentrification as well. But that’s something we can hardly escape, since our ‘cities of production’ have already changed into ‘cities of consumption’.

I’ll take a V60 Yirgacheffe, thanks. That’s to show how much I know about artisan coffee brewing my favorite.

Filed under Amsterdam Coffee Bru London coffee culture gentrification urban renewal Artisan Roast aesthetic reflexivity urbanism

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Amsterdam By Night


Amsterdam and part of the Randstad area, seen from space. ©André Kuipers

Past Friday, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, who is currently on a ISS mission, flew over Amsterdam and took this wonderful nightly picture.

Filed under photography aerial Amsterdam night

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Should not we reconsider the term ‘smart cities’? If we speak about people in the center of the complex systems, ‘smart cities’ can be replaced with ‘wise cities.’ Wisdom refers to the rich history of human experience and culture. So let’s embrace the complexity of the world instead of imagining a technologically perfect future machine.
Someone from the audience at Social Cities of Tomorrow conference in Amsterdam.
(from Shareable)

Filed under Amsterdam smart cities technology

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Are Civic Economies a Remedy for The Creativity Urban Policies Rash?

How Amsterdam ended up looking like other cities and sold out its distinctive culture by pursuing a generic creativity dream. Will the crisis uncover this and open up doors for civic economies?


©Enkeling

 ”Urban policymakers have become susceptible to the creativity fix .. the pandemic reveals their degraded immune systems .. weakened by decades of dependence on market fixes.

Jamie Peck (Professor in Geography at the University of British Columbia) wrote a striking piece on how cities in general are applying rather generic forms of creative policies, and how Amsterdam in particular has - in seeking to profit from a received reputation of a creative center - embraced this policy generica that generally replaces its cultural distinctiveness by a universally tradable competitive asset. By doing so, Amsterdam has become yet another event space in the spere of circulating images and investments.

Peck writes that “creativity policies are contributing to the extension and consolidation of culturally normalized neoliberal-urban rule. They purposefully legitimize and rationalize highly targeted and fiscally modest urban investments, justified on the basis of putative (but in practice highly elusive) economic returns.
… Creativity not only fits the cultural conditions of cities like Amsterdam; more broadly it also fits the political-economic conditions of neoliberalizing cities.
In other words, Peck explaines that the creativity policies are a panacee for urban development and just another form of neoliberalization, justifying operations that harm the poor and neutralize the distinctive, diverse and unique character of the city.


PICNIC festival at the NDSM-grounds, 2011. ©Andy Nash 

Some developments in Amsterdam
Several events and processes that took place over the past decade can be associated with the neoliberalization of Amsterdam’s assets in favor of the capitalization of ‘creativity’ and in order to make way for the ‘creative class’, such as the institutionalization of the formerly squatted NDSM shipyards and its adherent cultural identity, the reduction of the social housing stock, the adoption of an anti-squatting law, extensive city branding programmes, setting up initiatives that promote Amsterdam as a creative or global city (CCAA, Amsterdam Topstad) and large scale investments in business districts that will not flow back to the public or the city but rather to market parties (Zuidas, the IJ river banks). Regarding the social housing stock, some kind of auto-cannibalism is taking place: social housing corporations are now active parties in the market which causes social housing to have to sell itself off in order to continue to survive (Oudenampsen, 2007). Ergo, these corporations will sell social housing in favorable locations so that it can make room for more expensive housing, facilitating the ‘creatives’ and other more well-offs. Consequently, people depending on social housing are being replaced from the city’s nicer parts. 


Another creativity conference. ©Hub Amsterdam

But what about the crisis?
We have to wait to see how this creativity paradigm will develop, given the current financial and economic circumstances Amsterdam - just as other cities - is witnessing. But some large scale developments have already been paused or cancelled, just as specific programmes and investment schemes, leaving room for spontaneous, truly creative and meaningful initiatives. The interesting question is whether the tight neoliberal leash which the city is on, will be loosened now that there is no hailed market fix available. Perhaps the capital gap can be used by other kinds of activities that are not (solely) judged by their monetary value. Maybe the answer to a more meaningful economy lies in so-called civic economies.

Civic economies
A thing talked about often in the past year is the civic economy, especially after the Compendium for the Civic Economy was published halfway 2011. When ignoring the introduction by British PM David Cameron, this is an absolutely valuable publication. It gives new life and meaning to the term ‘civic economy’ by using 25 examples and showing how the economy can be organized in a different way.
In short, a civic economy is an alternative economy with more direct connections between consumers, users and producers, consisting of initiatives with alternative types of business models. It is about collaborative investments and productions, placemaking, filling in physical and mental voids, open-end approaches and social capital. A civic economy contributes to community resilience, everyday innovation and shared prosperity, and it is measured not (only) in terms of money, but by other standards such as social returns on investments.
It is not just a concept, it’s real and vital. The 25 cases - rooted in age-old traditions of the associational economy but using new organizing tactics - presented in the publication illustrate how civic economies are already taking shape in our cities.


The widely praised The People’s Supermarket in London. ©Channel 4

I see huge potential in these developments, giving back meaning to urban places, rather than just treating them as a commodity. It connects people to their environments, gives them the opportunity to learn and develop their skills and create communities. Moreover, it reduces the size of the global production and consumption loop, creating all kinds of environmental, economic and social advantages. If only local politicians can overcome their creativity addiction and help to create a fertile ground for these civic economies to flourish and grow, we could deploy the civic economy principle to save our cities. It should be about places and their economies, not about the potential worth of a housing block or the aim to attract wealthy home-buyers. People working in the public, private and tertiary sector and residents should join forces to create meaningful places and great cities, instead of creative cities.  
After the title of the recently published book edited by Neil Brenner, Peter Marcuse and Margit Mayer, we should create “Cities for People, Not for Profit”. The Right to the City issue is more topical than ever, I would say. Civic economies have the potential to provide useful and powerful tools to create a certain balance in our cities, away from the profit pursuance and towards local resilience and real distinctiveness.

See also:
The documentary film Creative (Capitalist) City by Tino Buchholz, gives a good image of the creative rash in Amsterdam and frictions connected to this. 

References:
Ahrensbach, T., J. Beunderman, I. Johar e.a. (2011) Compendium for a Civic Economy. London: 00:/, NESTA & Design Council CABE
Brenner, N., P. Marcuse and M. Mayer (eds.) (2011) Cities for People, Not for Profit. Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City. London: Routledge.
Oudenampsen, M. (2007) Amsterdam, the City as a Business, in: BAVO (ed.) Urban Politics Now. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.
Peck, J. (2011) Recreative City: Amsterdam, Vehicular Ideas and the Adaptive Spaces of Creativity Policy, In: Blokland, T. (ed.) Dutch Cities, url.

Filed under Amsterdam civic economy creative city gentrification neoliberalization crisis urbanism

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AMSTERDAM: A JUST CITY OR JUST A NICE CITY?

Nice initiative by Polis, they started podcasting. The first edition covers a conversation between Polis’ Alex Schafran and two Dutch academic scholars: Jan Willem Duyvendak and Justus Uitermark. 
I’ve heard Uitermark speak on this topic a couple of times, and I completely agree with him. Amsterdam is crowded (with middle class cargo bike owners), and because of this, the city has become less tolerant towards the less affluent. 


Squatters being evicted by riot police in Spuistraat.

Uitermark recognizes some alarming facts, describing them as the banality of injustice in the post-political city:
- a lot of urban renewal going on
- tenants are being paid to move out
- squatting is no longer tolerated, but as of late 2010 forbidden by law.
- vacant buildings are being filled with (gentrification-promoting and easily disposible) ‘anti-squatters’
- liveability is perceived to be proportional to the share of middle class households (!)
- hence, statistics see displacement as a contribution to liveability.

This perverse way of measuring the well-being of a city’s neighbourhoods and their inhabitants shows how justice gradually has had to make place for more questionable indicators such as diversity, creativity, liveability, mixing, etc.

So, whenever you come and visit Amsterdam, I suggest you look a bit beyond the cosy, authentic, diverse and tolerant face of the city.

Filed under Amsterdam just city Uitermark squatting urbanism